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Middle-schoolers Kristy Thomas, Mary Anne Spier, Claudia Kishi, and Stacey McGill are on their way back to the small screen in the Netflix adaptation of Ann M. Martin's beloved Baby-Sitters Club book series. The book series ran from 1986-2000, and there is a whole generation of former BSC readers who may be inclined to check out the show as well as the kids in the target demographic. The question is: does The Baby-Sitters Club work as a Netflix series? Well, the critics (and CinemaBlend) have weighed in.
But first, what should prospective viewers expect from The Baby-Sitters Club on Netflix? The ten-episode first season follows the adventures and friendships of a group of seventh-graders in the fictional town of Stoneybrook, Connecticut. Rachel Shukert of Netflix's GLOW serves as showrunner, with Lucia Aniello of Broad City as executive producer and director. The adult cast is filled out by '90s icon Alicia Silverstone, Mark Feuerstein, and Marc Evan Jackson, but the focus is on the babysitters and friends who make up the club.
Although the book series is very '90s, the Netflix show is contemporary and centered on a mostly-unknown cast of young actors. Judy Berman of Time was impressed by the "wonderful surprise" of Netflix's The Baby-Sitters Club:
So it’s a wonderful surprise that the new Baby-sitters Club, a 10-episode Netflix series due out July 3, isn’t an anachronism so much as a tonic. Helmed by first-generation fans Rachel Shukert (Glow) and Lucia Aniello (Broad City), who honed their voices telling lighthearted stories about women who have each other’s backs, the show strikes a shrewd balance between earnestness and humor, freshness and nostalgia, fidelity to Martin’s beloved characters and awareness of how much has changed since her books dominated girl culture at the end of the 20th century.
While I can vouch that The Baby-Sitters Club is definitely not GLOW 2.0 and is appropriate for kids, the showrunner has clearly mastered the art of bringing female friendship to the small screen in lighthearted and heartwarming ways. Kristen Baldwin of EW also praised how the series skews "young" without alienating adults who might sit down to watch with the kids (or without kids for nostalgia's sake!):
But Netflix's Baby-Sitters Club skews unabashedly young: Kids play Uno and tell each other corny-cute jokes ('Did you hear about the hungry clock? It went back for seconds!'), and all the puppy love is peck-on-the-cheek chaste. That isn't to say adults won't find the show enjoyable, especially since it portrays a Platonic ideal of modern childhood. Stoneybrook is a gentle world where kids aren't exposed to drugs or insta-nudes or cyberbullying, where girls of all backgrounds are encouraged to know their worth and taught to use their voices from a young age. If HBO's sex-soaked Euphoria depicted every parent's worst nightmare, consider BSC a sweet slice of TV heaven.
Is the Stoneybrook of The Baby-Sitters Club necessarily the most realistic world? I would say not, but it also tells the girls' stories in ways that appeal to childhood without taking dark and gritty turns. Many shows featuring teenagers definitely skew more adult, and even the first season of preteens in Netflix's Stranger Things wasn't exactly easy on the kids.
That's not the case with Netflix's The Baby-Sitters Club, and Variety's Caroline Framke shared her pleasant surprise at Baby-Sitters Club refusing to get dark and gritty:
Maybe that’s why, halfway through the first episode of Netflix’s 'The Baby-Sitters Club' adaptation, I realized I’d been steeling myself for the moment that this modern reboot of a children’s property would turn dark and sexy, as per increasingly typical 'Riverdale' standards. But much to my pleasant surprise (and downright relief), Rachel Shukert’s update of Martin’s beloved books is, in fact, a show about young teenagers starring young teenagers that’s entirely appropriate for young teenagers. Such a concept should not be radical, and yet, it’s remarkable that the sweet sincerity of this 'Baby-Sitters Club' so closely matches that of its source material while also bringing it into a recognizable 21st century.
The Baby-Sitters Club is definitely no Riverdale, and not just because I'm guessing BSC won't be delivering its own version of the Black Hood in Season 2, if Netflix moves forward with a second season. Based on the reviews that seem overwhelmingly positive, there certainly might be demand for more of the adventures of Kristy and Co.
Personally, as a Baby-Sitters Club reader back in the '90s when I was anxiously awaiting my chance to become a babysitter myself, I found the Netflix series to be surprisingly faithful to the book series while also easily adapting its plots and characters for 2020. This is a contemporary show with cell phones and computers and TV shoutouts, but it also deals with themes that are ultimately universal and relatable no matter the decade. Based on my own experiences, I think other '90s readers will get a kick out of The Baby-Sitters Club, even if the target demographic skews younger.
Season 1 of The Baby-Sitters Club premieres on Friday, July 3 at 12:01 a.m. PT on Netflx. For more streaming options now and in the not-too-distant future, be sure to check out our 2020 Netflix premiere schedule.